May 18, 2020

As Greece reopens, post COVID-19 surge, and regular activities slowly resume, we would like to recognize Laurance Menetian, as CHEER Champion of the week. Laurance is a Psychologist, Psychotherapist, and Clinical Criminologist who collaborates with CHEER’s International Branch, CHEERing. She works as a Protection PSS (Psychosocial Support) Specialist under the Danish Refugee Council (DRC). She works on-site and in cooperation with local partners to provide psychosocial support to residents of the Skaramagas Refugee Camp, using group information sessions and focus group discussions. Laurance has been a key facilitator of DRC and CHEERing’s collaborations, helping to implement workshops and information sessions at Skaramagas on topics ranging from health and nutrition to basic first aid.

The refugee crisis in Greece began in 2011 and continues today, and as laws and the needs of refugees continue to evolve, so too does Laurance’s work adapt and expand. When asked about the refugee “crisis” overall, Laurance explained that while she does not see the situation changing any time soon, she remains motivated—“we all work towards that direction, to have citizens living with dignity and having their rights, and we put our own little pebble towards that direction, so hope never ends!”

And boy does Laurance put pebbles, if not boulders, towards that direction!  Through her smiling and enthusiastic demeanor, boundless positivity, and dedication, Laurance works to support the well-being of the camp residents each and every day. She explains, “The big success is seeing the difference you do through your work for each individual. Even a slight change, a smile, the relief in someone’s eyes, is our ‘reward’ in our everyday work. A small action from our side, could be an important change for the refugee we have been helping.”  When asked what she enjoys most about her work, Laurance replied, “speaking to the people and listening to their views, their story and their experiences is great…It is exciting, because you do not only give to people, but from each one you get something, you learn something new.”

Laurance balances these positives with the difficulties, both tangible and intangible, of working with refugee and migrant populations. Of the most challenging parts of her work, Laurance said, “Working with the system is challenging, facing on an everyday basis the experiences of refugees can lead to secondary trauma. Trying to make a difference and a lot of times being disappointed, but still having to work, is challenging.” In this ever-changing and demanding environment, Laurance explained the importance of boundaries, saying, “it is essential to…know what you are capable of doing and what is not your responsibility. And as easy as it may seem, it needs constant work with one’s self to achieve it. Because, after all, if you cannot take care of yourself, how do you expect to help others?”

In taking care of herself and trying to maintain those boundaries, Laurance does theater outside work. One day she hopes to combine her work and play through a theatre project involving refugees!

Congratulations, Laurance, and thank you for all the incredible work you do! We cannot ​wait to keep collaborating with you all.